Major study finds no transmission of HIV with people on effective HIV medication

Besi Besemar July 25, 2018

Results of new study into HIV transmission revealed at the International AIDS Conference in Amsterdam.

THE PARTNER 2 study investigated how effective HIV medication is in preventing the transmission of HIV, especially between gay men.

The results show that Antiviral Therapy (ART) is as effective for gay men at preventing HIV transmission as it is for heterosexuals and provides an even greater level of evidence for gay men as the original PARTNER 1 research results provided for heterosexual couples.

The first PARTNER study in 2014 looked at sero-discordant couples (where one is HIV positive and one is HIV negative), who were having condomless sex.

Where the HIV positive partner was on effective HIV medication and had an undetectable viral load, it failed to find a single incidence of HIV transmission between the couples. This held true in over 40,000 incidents where condomless sex was happening.

Although it included some same-sex couples, the first PARTNER study looked mainly at opposite-sex couples. Because HIV is transmitted more easily via anal sex than vaginal sex researchers wanted to do produce a follow-up study that looked exclusively at male couples who engage in anal sex.

PARTNER 2 research was conducted in 14-countries and looked at 635 gay couples, in addition to the 337 gay couples already recruited for PARTNER 1.

Participants reported nearly 77,000 acts of condomless sex, yet the study found not a single incident of HIV transmission when the HIV-positive partner had a viral load under 200.

The findings provide further evidence that Undetectable = Untransmittable, a message that sexual health organisations around the world are now getting behind and backing.

Matthew Hodson
Matthew Hodson

NAM’s Executive Director, Matthew Hodson, said: “This is the moment when science trumps stigma. This is the moment when facts must conquer fear.

“The knowledge that when we are undetectable we can’t pass the virus on to our sexual partners has the power to encourage people to test and to remain adherent to their treatment. Just as importantly it can have an impact on the way that people with HIV think about themselves, removing some of the stress and fear that many in our communities experience.”

Ian Howley
Ian Howley

Ian Howley, CEO of Health Equality and Rights Organisation/GMFA, added: “People who are on effective and successful treatment cannot pass on HIV to their partners.

“What the PARTNER 2 study does is prove once again that people who are on effective and successful treatment cannot pass on HIV to their partners. This should be reassuring to every gay and bisexual man who is HIV-undetectable that you are not a danger to anyone and no person should use your status as a way to reject you.

“However, the results of the PARTNER 2 study will not wipe away the stigma those living with HIV receive overnight. We have to continue to push the message and help educate those who still don’t believe the science behind the U=U movement.”

Dr Michael Brady
Dr Michael Brady

Dr Michael Brady, Medical Director, Terrence Higgins Trust said: “We’re thrilled that the PARTNER2 results are out, and confirm what we already knew: that people living with HIV on effective treatment cannot pass the virus on to their sexual partners.

“The two studies (PARTNER1 and PARTNER2) scientifically prove this, and will be so powerful in helping to fight the stigma and myths that still surround HIV.

“What’s most important now is ensuring that we continue to share this message and educate people as far and wide as possible, to help improve the lives of people living with HIV across the world.”